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Pediatric Dental X-rays (Radiography)

In addition to compiling a thorough medical and dental history of a child by performing an in-depth clinical examination, Pediatric Dentists often use Dental Radiographs, or x-rays for purposes diagnostic and preventative dentistry.

What are the Benefits of Dental Radiographs for my Child?

Upon visual examination by a pediatric dentist, at most, only three of the five surfaces of the teeth can be seen. X-rays provide a more in-depth look at the overall oral health of the child by detecting or determining the following:

  • Dental disease or decay which may not be able to be seen by the naked eye
  • If there is enough room in the mouth for all incoming permanent teeth
  • If the primary (baby teeth) are being lost quickly enough to allow for the permanent teeth to come in
  • Presence of adult teeth or absence of adult teeth
  • If there are any un-erupted wisdom teeth and, if so, estimate the timing of wisdom teeth eruption
  • If the wisdom teeth are impacted, or unable to erupt because of inhibition by bones or existing teeth
  • The necessity of orthodontic treatment

How Often Should a Child’s Teeth be X-rayed?

According to the ADA or the American Dental Association:

“The recommendations in the ADA/FDA guidelines were developed to serve as an adjunct to the dentist’s professional judgment. The timing of the initial radiographic examination should not be based upon the patient’s age but upon each child’s individual circumstances. Because each patient is unique, the need for dental radiographs can be determined only after reviewing the patient’s medical and dental histories, completing a clinical examination, and assessing the patient’s vulnerability to environ­mental factors that affect oral health”

**A complete chart of x-ray timing and health recommendations may be found at

However, the general guidelines for the frequency of x-rays for children are as follows:

  • For children with no history of decay or gum disease, x-rays are performed once annually
  • For children with obvious decay, gum disease x-rays should be performed every six months

Dental Radiography: is it safe for children?

Although excessive exposure to radiation from one of the many sources in the world around us can indeed cause damage to the body’s tissues and negatively affect health, there are many reasons the benefits of dental radiographs outweigh any potential risks:

  • The amount of radiation put out by the newer x-ray machines is far lower than older, traditional machines
  • The increased sensitivity of x-ray film has decreased the amount of radiation necessary to obtain an accurate image of the teeth and structures, therefore reducing the amount of radiation exposure
  • Digital radiography, the newest form of radiography, only produces a very minimal amount of radiation and therefore is considered the safest type of radiography.

More on Digital Radiography:

dental x-ray in childOne of the greatest advancements in dental radiography in recent times is the use of digital radiography. The most basic explanation of digital radiography is to liken it to the replacement of film cameras with digital cameras. Using digital imagery means images can be immediately acquired, deleted, or modified.

In addition to less radiation exposure, the use of digital imaging in radiography makes images easily transferrable and in cases of dental referrals to specialists, the process of sending or receiving images is very simple.

Excellent oral health is paramount to overall physical health and should be taken very seriously. X-rays are a very valuable tool to prevent and detect disease and other oral deformities. In order to avoid any unnecessary exposure to radiation, a parent should look for a dentist who takes a child’s individual situation into mind into their approach to dental x-rays. Most importantly, a parent should look for a dentist who uses the most advanced digital radiography, as it is the safest, most effective radiography available today.

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